04 October 2005

So, who's right?

I had a conversation with a friend at work today. As we sat in her office, she told me that her son had asked their pastor about how it is that anyone can start a church. He wanted to know who is right among all the churches in the world. The pastor responded that it was not a question that he could answer "in the line" (as everyone was shaking his hand on the way out of church) and that he would get back with the son to discuss it.

So, who's right?

What a great question. It is also timely as I am (as I have previously discussed) part of a group starting a new church here in town.

So, who's right?

How do you look at this question? There are lots of folks in this world who think that we are all right. Something is true if it is true for you. These people would suggest that there nobody has an exclusive claim to truth. Each religious system has its merits and we can and should appreciate the merits of each with out being judgmental. These are the people who teach that there are many paths to "enlightenment." Whatever that means.

Well, I disagree with anyone who takes such a relativistic view of their faith. If it doesn't matter what you believe, then why believe anything at all? There is no need to have any faith if any faith will do. Furthermore, most faiths have claims of exclusivity. Jesus claimed "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." (John 14:6.) Elsewhere Jesus taught:
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kindgom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practie lawlessness.' (Matt. 7:21-23.)
Anyone who suggests that a Christian need not teach Jesus as the exclusive means of salvation denies the inerrancy of scripture. They also violate one of the most basic underpinnings of orthodox Christianity. Clearly, Christian faith is not compatible with a view that "there are many paths to enlightenment."

So, who's right?

As a Christian, I believe that Christianity is the truth. If I try to set out the basis for this belief, this entry will be much longer than anyone wants to read, so I will cut to the main point of the entry. (Yes, all of this has been by way of introduction only.) Within Christianity, there are numerous options, flavors, and churches. This all begs the question even within Christianity:

So, who's right?

The answer in many respects is that many of us are right. However, we are not all right. Even within Christianity that are many churches that go down dangerous paths. These areas are too numerous to get into here. But, there are churches that claim to be Christian that deny many things about Christ. Thus, each Christian must carefully pay attention to Biblical truth and carefully analyze what is taught from the pulpit of their church. If something does not align with proper teaching, then it is time to move on to a different church.

Once you get beyond the basics, it is time for understanding and patience. A 17th century German theologian put it well "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." This is a foundational thought in considering why there are so many variations within Christianity. My parents go to a church that is liturgical. My friend also goes to a liturgical church. I go to a non-liturgical church. As long as we agree on the essentials, it doesn't matter that the way we celebrate the essentials, and the Lord of the essentials, is not the same. We can worship with different songs, different styles and still be brothers and sisters in Christ.

Within churches, there are many that I respect. There are others, who I respectfully disagree with on essential issues. Yet others, I respect their views, but disagree on items that I think are not essential.

So, who's right?

At the end of the day, the Bible is right on all things. As long as a church is based on Biblical principles, and its members and pastor affirm the Biblical truths, it is right. Then it is a matter for any individual believer to determine where they are best able to learn and glorify God.

Some find the constancy of a liturgical church comforting. Others find the repetitiveness stifling. I grew up in a liturgical church, but I found the liturgy not well suited to me. I respect many within liturgical circles, and will on occasion join them for worship, but I prefer the non-liturgical services. I prefer having flexibility and changes in the order of worship. I find that it fits my personality better.

On a case by case basis, many churches are great. Many of them are right. So, that's who's right.

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